Ken Segall talks in his book “Insanely Simple, the Obsession that drives Apple’s Success” about Apple’s mantra of simplicity in its organisation, it’s customer dealings and products. Learn more about Ken Segall and his view of the world in his blog “Ken Segall’s Observatory“.
After having read the book, which I recommend not only Apple fanboys (and -girls to stay politically correct), I had to contrast my work experience with excerpts from the book. Most of my organisational experience is pretty well described in the 37 Signals founder’s book “Rework” (its not a must read but will surely bring up a smile or two if you have worked in a similarly agonising setup as most people who can sincerely laugh about the daily Dilbert while knowing deep in the back of their minds that there is quite some truth to the comic). Having said that, most organisations spend an immense amount of time with increasing organisational complexity both purposely and not so purposely. Let me explain that further, have you ever gone through an organisational budgeting period? If so, you will know that sometimes in Q2 or Q3 there is a 99% chance you end up sitting in front of your a screen and key in numbers which apparently have some future relevancy (I would personally like to take on Rework and call it “planning is guessing” – for most parts anyway). After you are done with this planning exercise, you are likely to go through various revisions, depending on the organisation. For most parts, you will then end up being measures against (in the worst of cases) your fulfilment of the plan – or in other words, you are forced into a linear type mode or organisational thinking driven by rigid parameter setting.
Now, whilst I am not trying to go into a critique on planning or budgeting, despite my strong believe that most plans are nothing but hot air ratified on thin paper, I want to emphasise that this tendency to create complex systems and or adapt to the complexity of systems by throwing more complexity at them is likely the reason why most organisation to customer interaction will take an irrevocably wrong turn at some point. Why? Many organisations are very intrinsically occupied, this usually starts with product development and ends up with product naming. This intrinsic focus is evoked by many organisations’ cultural setup and thus deeply engrained.
However shouldn’t we as Marketers not think about breaking the vicious cycle of organisational complexity by stimulating the product / service to customer relation and thus setting the focus on the “obvious”? Most startups seem to do an excellent job in this respect. Contrast Apple’s product offering, and with that their website experience, with Canon or Wabcom. It took me forever to find the product I was looking for on either site of the last two despite the endless pages of prose, pictures and videos which should me make want to badly buy one of these products.
Why is that? Why, as it seems, do only very few companies excel at keeping the product to customer interaction simple and to the point? Why are billions wasted in cookie crunching meetings with the top tier consultancies, who just happen to have sold one of the SVP’s another life saving project? Why is it that so many critiqued Porter’s generic strategies for the generic part (vs. the uniqueness of strategy)? Why, why, why?
I am not drunk btw, but I believe, going back to the roots and getting the basic’s right will stand above the best planning, the most thought out systems and the biggest budget:
1) know your customer
2) know their needs & wants
3) satisfy that need with either a product or service
4) don’t screw up in the process
5) repeat from 1 (and apply some double or even triple loop feedbacks)